Thursday, January 8, 2009

TerrorVision (Ted Nicolaou, 1986)

The fact that this super-terrific attempt at icky-based tomfoolery takes place in only four rooms of a kooky suburban home (five rooms, if you include the "pleasure dome," and why wouldn't you include it?), didn't seem to minimize its galactic impact. A mucilaginous remedy for everything sapless and uninteresting in this drab world, TerrorVision hit my face like a rainbow-coloured laser blast. A featherbrained enterprise that knows exactly what decade it's being made in and isn't ashamed to demonstrate that knowledge over and over again. All you need to do is take one look at the breadth of funky fashions and down-to-earth prosthetic techniques that populate this flick, and you'll quickly realize that it means business. The beautifully poetic film, written and directed by Ted Nicolaou, like the similar Remote Control, plays with the connection that exists between 1980s new wave culture and 1950s science fiction. However, instead of an alien videotape taking over the world, the aliens here use cable television as their means of planetary self-assertion. Sending up the '80s zeitgeist, the film also mocks the male psyche when it comes to the acquisition of newfangled gadgets. You see, without a major hot war to fight, thousands of men who would normally be killed in armed combat have been relegated to the arena of the mindless consumer. These docile individuals purchase inessential goods and services, while their warlike parents and increasingly violent offspring ridicule their pacifistic lifestyle at every turn.

Which, in this film's case, is a lifestyle that includes wallowing in the bourgeoning five hundred channel universe. One of the earliest signs of the disintegration of the family unit, this abundance of TV choice erodes at their collectiveness. Mommy wants to watch aerobics, teenage Suzy digs MTV, and Grampa (Bert Remsen) and little Sherman want war and monsters. And Dad, well, he's too captivated by the gizmo itself to have any taste to call his own. Made-up and overly reaching theories aside, TerrorVision is ultimately about a disgusting creature from outer space who escapes from a sanitation dump on the planet of Pluton and ends up being zapped into the satellite dish of the Putterman family.

The film pretty much stays inside Putterman residence, brief visits to the set of Medusa's Midnight Horrorthon, an Elvira-esque movie program, allow the audience to stretch our cinematic legs. But the Putterman home is adorned with such a strange assortment of erotic art, that you almost forget the film takes place in one location. Revolting, yet inventive monster effects are also employed to create to the slimy thing at the centre of this silly stew. And I must say, I liked the way the otherworldly creature oozed, and their green iridescent sludge really tickled my fancy.

Now, any movie that features a leggier than usual Mary Woronov (Eating Raoul) exercising in a skintight leotard, the always hilarious Gerrit Graham (Phantom of the Paradise) using the word "tomato" as a supplemental expletive, and moron extraordinaire Jon Gries wearing a W.A.S.P. t-shirt all within the first five minutes is bound to be topnotch. Add a Valley Girl-accented, pink, green, orange, blonde, and blue-haired Diane Franklin (The Last American Virgin) to the zany mix, and were talking about a freaking masterpiece up in here.

Sporting a new wave look so extreme, that the cast of Liquid Sky would no doubt feel drab in her presence, Diane plays the culturally relevant Suzy Putterman, music video junkie and junior-grade fashion icon. And while she is off screen during the film's perilous middle section, Miss Franklin explodes so righteously when she is onscreen, that her absence barely registers. I mean, even though Suzy's younger brother (Chad Allen) is the first to come face-to-face with the space monster, it's Diane's playful spirit that makes their brief friendship with the space monster such an unexpected joy to watch.

Teaching the space monster about the wonders of food and music, Diane, and to lesser extent, Jon Gries (who plays her her boyfriend, O.D.) shine comedically as they instruct the beast on how to eat snacks. Diane even says "yum" twice in quick succession to signify something that is tasty.

Speaking of phraseology, I love how she would liberally pepper her sentences with words like, "barf," "dork," and "awesome." Sure, the third is rarely used to denote anything that is actually awesome anymore. But back in 1986, if you called something "awesome," or in extreme cases, "totally awesome," it usually meant something was genuinely awesome. For example, The Fibonaccis' song, "TerrorVision," which opens and closes the film, is not only awesome, it's (you guessed it) totally awesome.

video uploaded by Trash Trailers



  1. Gerrit Graham is one of my favs. He is always hilarious to the point of being scary. He's heavily featured in Used Cars - Kurt Russell, Jack Warden in two roles, Lenny AND Squiggy... I think the principal from Saved By the Bell is in there too? Oddly, not a single Oscar nod. 8-B

    Anyway, I will have to check this one out. Great review, as always!

  2. I'm glad to see that there are others out there who are down with the hilariousness that is Gerrit Graham. His work in Used Cars is pure gold.

  3. I finally scored the totally awesome soundtrack (on LP) to TerrorVision! Sadly, I still haven't seen the film...all those years passing it by at the video store...what was I thinking?!

    I love what little I've heard of The Fibonaccis and even blogged about them (and TV) HERE last year.

    I think my favorite role for Gerrit was Beef in Phantom Of The Paradise...

  4. The Fibonaccis are also featured in the film Valet Girls. They perform "Slow Beautiful Sex" at a pool party.

    13 second YouTube clip.

    Excellent Fibs entry. Their cover of "Purple Haze" rules. I love the way Magie Song says "one dollar" while selling flowers on the street.

  5. So, this was Diane Franklin's follow-up to Better Off Dead? :D

    Chad Allen will always be Tommy Westphall to me, probably along with the throngs of people pissed off by St. Elsewhere's series finale.

    I never knew that Jon Gries was Lazlo in Real Genius. I just remember him from that damn Napoleon Dynamite flick.

    Uh, yeah, that's quite a cast.

    d. said to me recently, "Yum-Yum's reviewing some really weird movies." :D

  6. Yeah, so? Diane Franklin probably wanted to stretch her acting muscles in a different direction after the heavy lifting of Better Off Dead. ;)

    Browsing St. Elsewhere cast list, I couldn't help but notice that Cynthia Sikes (the reporter from the Fabulous Stains) was on that show.

    You mean you didn't watch The Pretender? (Jon Gries was like that shows Huggy Bear - so I've heard)

    Really weird? As supposed to just plain weird? :D

    Okay, it is hereby official: House Of Self-Indulgence is now my new number one favorite must-read blog. I'm not just saying that because of TerrorVision either. Your reviews are fantastic. I love 'em. A thousand wishes of good fortune to you. Keep it up, you crazy kook!

  8. A childhood favorite, and still one of my favorite movies. Diane should've won the nobel prize for fashion that year.

    I uploaded a longer clip of Valet Girls that has the Purple Haze cover:

  9. A Noble Prize for Fashion? Yes, most definitely.

    Out of all the movies floating around in the universe at the moment, Valet Girls is probably the one I want to see the most.

    Anyway, thanks for uploading the clips.

  10. I saw this movie for the first time about a couple of years ago when it was featured on "TCM Underground". And even though it is labled under the genre of "horror", I kept thinking to myself as I watched it that if Stanley Kubrick had ever decided to write a screenplay with Sid and Marty Kroft, the end result would've been a movie along the lines of "TerrorVision".

    The combination of campiness and creepiness are fun to watch in this movie, along with a cast of great actors who look as though they were having a lot of fun working on it. The only thing not to like about "TerrorVision" is the fact that you can't just go and pick up a copy of it on DVD at your local retailer.

  11. Oh this one and Valet Girls just went to the top of my mental got-to-get-my-hands-on-list. Sadly that seems easier said than done. Do you know if there is a official dvd-release for TerrorVision?

    Btw is there a way to email you or something? I'm asking cause i have a bunch of movies in mind that i think would suit your particular taste and i would like to recommend them to you (without taking up valuable comment-space). House of Self-Indulgence has given me so much in a short period of time so i just want to give something back.

  12. Yum-Yum...

    CHECK OUT MY BLOG, if you haven't already. I think you'll like my latest posting in regards to Diane Franklin.

  13. I used to play this soundtrack on my college radio station. Always wondered what the flicks was like. Now I know I gotta check it out. I saw The Fibs do Purple Haze on Night Flight in the 80s and it permanently restructured my DNA. I think they were just stupidly talented and sadly unheralded. Thanks YY!